Jim Hightower

The Artifice of Alan Greenspan


Like some voodoo sorcerer trying to foretell the future by studying a chicken’s entrails, America’s media establishment examines, dissects, analyzes, and reports every word that Alan Greenspan utters on any economic topic. How curious, then, that the media showed no interest in a most remarkable utterance that our nation’s top economic official recently made about a crucial policy that affects millions of working families. Greenspan, in his usual imperious and droning way, was dumping a load of economic gobbledygook on the House Banking Committee, when Representative Bernie Sanders cut through the verbiage to ask a direct question: “Are you for abolishing the minimum wage?” Startled, the master of obfuscation uncharacteristically blinked and blurted: “I would say that if I had my choice the answer is, of course.”

Why didn’t this make the evening news? Here’s a man whose mutterings on pork-belly futures will make headlines and upset people’s breakfasts worldwide, yet he publicly reveals his blatant corporate bias and ideological zealotry by decrying the very existence of a wage floor for working stiffs, and the media goes oddly mute. Greenspan reached new levels of ideological absurdity by asserting that he opposed the minimum wage because he considers it an “artificial government intervention” in the marketplace. Yoo-hoo, Alan… artificial government intervention is what you happen to do for a living. As head of the Federal Reserve, this banker periodically alters the market for interest rates so investors can profit at the expense of wage earners. In his 20-year tenure, Greenspan has routinely intervened to hold down the wages of working-class Americans–wages that are lower today in real terms than when Richard Nixon was president.

Pink Slip Blues

Here’s a sorrow-filled story from The New York Times about the personal side of downsizing. It’s about the trauma suffered by those who get caught in the blizzard of pink slips in today’s harsh corporate climate. Only the story is not about the people getting pink slips… but about the plight of bosses who hand them out. Of course, the CEOs who mandate mass firings never soil their hands with actually handing out termination notices. This is done by line bosses, and many of them are 20-something junior executives just a few years out of college. Well-paid, upwardly-mobile, and awash in stock options, they’re products of the boom-boom good times. It never occurred to them that there were any dark clouds in the corporate sky. Having to punt a bunch of geezers in their 40s and 50s has like, you know, totally freaked them out. But the happy news is that some of these young punters are getting the counseling and help they need to do the dirty work of corporate America. The Times reports that these bosses are being schooled in how to fire someone, taking corporate courses that include simulated firings, that engage them in role playing, and that teach them politically correct downsizing-speak. Among the tips are: “Never fire on a Friday” (the firee will stew all weekend and sue the company on Monday); “Keep the termination exercise to less than 10 minutes” (after all, this is a firing, not a happy hour); and “let the fired employee keep his e-mail address” for a while (this will make you seem generous). The Times informs us that the 20-somethings are quickly able to get over their trauma and get with the program. As one of them says: “At the end of the day it’s a business, and you have to make hard business decisions.”

Demand Your Democracy

It’s always dangerous for a democracy when police power is unleashed, and that’s the situation you and I now face as our defenders, full of made-for-television bravado, rush to protect us by mounting a macho crackdown on–guess what?–our freedom! In his brief television address on the night of the horrendous assault on America’s people, Bush noted that America is “the brightest beacon for freedom” in the world, and declared, “no one will keep that light from shining.” Unfortunately, the anti-terrorism actions planned by Bush and Company would darken that very beacon of freedom by making a new attack on our already-endangered civil liberties, while also turning our airports and other public places into armed fortresses. The terrorists’ fires were still burning when Washington officials began the PR drumbeat to authorize more domestic surveillance, restrict people’s movements, and even to raid our social security trust fund. A former top CIA official stepped out of the darkness to assert ominously: “We’re going to have to rethink what is the trade-off for privacy in return for internal security.” There can be no internal security without tenacious protection of all the liberties (including privacy) that undergird our democratic republic. What makes America great is not police power, military might, or wealth–rather it’s our democracy itself that makes our “national experiment” unique and important. We can’t “Let freedom ring” if our so-called leaders restrict people from being able to ring the bell. If we let them do that, we allow the terrorists to win.

Jim Hightower’s latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com or write [email protected].